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What happened to projects that left the CLMH research early?

DfE Community Learning | Mental Health Research sites (2015/18)

The CLMH research started out in April 2015 funding projects in 62 local authority areas. These 62 projects were delivered by 57 adult community learning providers, 4 of which covered more than one local authority area. The 4 were:

  • Bracknell and Wokingham College was funded for 2 projects, one in Bracknell and one in Wokingham
  • Bristol was funded for 2 projects, one in Bristol City and one in North Somerset (Weston-super-Mare)
  • Humber Learning Consortium was funded for 2 projects, one in East Riding and one in North East Lincolnshire
  • Poole was funded for 3 projects, one in Bournemouth, one in Dorset and one in Poole

Five projects (4 providers) withdrew during phase 1 of the research (2015/16) and a sixth project withdrew towards the end of phase 2 (2016/17), making the total of providers that withdrew 5.  At the end of the research, in August 2017, there were 56 projects which were delivered by 52 providers.

The six projects that withdrew were:

They remain members of the MHFE network and we include them in project activities, such as the CLMH termly all-project face-to-face meetings.

When we reached the end of the research delivery phase in July 2017, we asked Kathryn James to find out what they learned from their experiences and what happened next for them. Here's what they told her.

Adult and Community Learning, Isle of Wight Council

Rob Brindley, Head of Service, explained the motivation for applying to be part of the CLMH project.

"Mental health is a big issue on the Isle of Wight with above average rates of male suicide, and we knew we weren’t meeting community need. We knew we needed to up our game."

While the project realised some of the anticipated benefits from participating in the project in Year 1, it was also beset by many challenges. Rob Brindley explained their decision:

"It has to be about meeting learner need and not letting learners down. It was about having honest conversations about what we could and couldn’t achieve, about not chasing the money but taking the longer-term view."

This turned out to be a positive decision. The Isle of Wight Adult and community Learning Service is still working with Richmond Fellowship and as a result mental health is a driver in the delivery model for the provision on offer.

Since the project:

  • 100 people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid.
  • 18 people with lived experience of mental health problems have achieved a Level 3 qualification in Education and Training and ways are being explored in how they can use these skills with peers.
  • Other courses have been developed including Art and Employability courses where 18 learners have visited art galleries and gone on to exhibit and sell their own work.
  • As a service they are now reaching more people with a declared mental health need.

Rob recognises that more can be done in future and they are working with partners to put in a bid to the Big Lottery Fund.

Lessons learned

Rob reflected that:

  • While the process to withdraw from the project was painful it was also the right decision. As a leader it has given him more confidence to trust his instincts in decision-making in order to achieve longer-term goals.
  • Involving partners is crucial. Rob acknowledges that while others may think he is making the process more complicated and difficult, there is a need to take a systems approach to developing community learning for people with mental health needs. That this may take more time and effort, but it is crucial to arriving at a shared agenda, joined up approach and achieving a consensus.
  • Expertise does not lie with one person. Rob expanded:

"I’m not an expert on mental health, I needed the expertise of others. No one person is the expert on everything."

Wakefield Council

Unfortunately, we've not yet managed to catch up with colleagues from Wakefield. We'll add an update once we do.

Community Learning Service, North Somerset Council

Rebecca Jones explained that since withdrawing from the project they have continued to offer the provision developed during the project. In 2016-17, 176 learners with mental health issues enrolled on courses. This accounts for 23% of their learner total.

Learners with mental health problems access any course offered by the service but the council have also continued successful courses developed specifically for people with mental health problems under the CLMH project such as:

  • Jewellery Making
  • Mindfulness
  • Anger Management
  • Anxiety Management
  • Confidence Building .

All these course are funded through the ESFA Community Learning Grant.

Rebecca describes some of the key learning outcomes from their involvement in Phase 1 of the project

"We were surprised at how much positive impact some learners experienced from just a 3 or 5 week course. Learners continue to make significant improvements in health and confidence on the courses outlined above. Last year from 9 such courses we have had feedback that 5 learners progressed to community activities, 30 began voluntary work, 12 progressed to further learning with another provider, 2 gained qualifications, 13 progressed to paid work, 10 joined a local club or group and 1 became self-employed."


"It also provided us with some excellent evidence to share with colleagues in the NHS AWP about the potential for positive health impacts on clients attending our courses."

Community Learning Service, Milton Keynes Council

Tom Molloy, Principal of the Community Learning Service, explained that they have continued to offer the SMILE provision developed under Phase 1 of the project, by ring-fencing a part of their AEB allocation. Provision continues to grow and now delivers to approximately 200 learners with mental health problems.

In addition to the adult SMILE provision they have also started to work with young people with mental health needs in partnership with the Council Youth Service. Activities are provided that enable young people to express themselves and ‘get things off their chest’.

The success of this work has enabled the council to generate income by selling this service to schools. By winning additional funding from the Arts Council they have been able to do an exhibition of young people’s art at the Milton Keynes art gallery.

They are also working in partnership with the Youth Offending Teams with funding from Ministry of Justice and the NHS to work with young people going through the criminal justice system, many of whom have mental health needs.

Milton Keynes community learning service continues to use the WEMWBS survey in order to evidence the impact that the work is having, particularly in their discussions with partners.

Tom Molloy highlights the key lessons learnt as:

  • The realisation of how much need there is in the community among different groups of people for this type of provision. By offering provision it has encouraged more and different partnership and more learners to access learning opportunities.
  • It also highlighted training needs of staff, particularly arising from safeguarding issues. This has been positive for staff as it enables them to respond appropriately to learner needs.

Bedfordshire Employment and Skills Service, Central Bedfordshire Council

Since withdrawing from the project, Central Bedfordshire has sustained the work from Year 1. Mandy Bates, Quality Manager explained

"We developed a strong programme in Year 1, that was really beneficial and we wanted to sustain it, which we did through Community Learning funding. Since then it has been developed further with a Recovery Pathways progression course following on from The YOU Programme initiated through the CLMH research project. Learners also progress onto other learning opportunities, to employability courses and into employment through service provision. We are still working with Impact Mental Health and have increased work with stakeholders. Use of PHQ9 and GAD7 are still embedded to measure the positive impact the provision is having on learners’ mental health and wellbeing."

Key outcomes from participation in phase-1

  • Developing a strong programme focussed on meeting needs for the high percentage of learners disclosing a social, emotional or mental health difficulty.
  • Meeting a wider community need.
  • Building a strong working partnership with Impact Mental Health, who in turn have developed their skills in delivering recovery knowledge and skills in the context of adult learning provision.

Moving forwards

Central Bedfordshire Council are working to access additional funding within the Council to re-instate the post course ‘drop-in’ sessions and will also introduce an accredited follow-on course to evidence the broad learning and skills that learners develop within the YOU Programme and Recovery Pathways provision.

Check out Central Bedfordshire's project page and excellent phase-1 report

Adult and Community Learning Service, Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

Helen Daniels, Delivery Manager, explained that despite disappointment at not completing phase-2, participation was beneficial

"We learnt a lot and it vastly improved our service."

The benefits of being part of the project were:

  • All staff have been trained in mental health awareness.
  • Networking with other projects which provided insight into effective practice and ideas for courses.
  • The development of the service. Provision had been focussed on employability, but with participation in the project they became more aware that many learners were not ready for that and so they have developed courses that build confidence, self-esteem and resilience as progression pathways onto employability and qualification based courses.
  • Opening up of more partnerships with other organisations such as Wellbeing Centres, IAPT teams, GP surgeries and voluntary sector organisations working with other excluded groups.
  • Diversifying the skills of staff that are recruited, such as taking on staff with both a teaching and heath qualification and benefitting from this ‘dual professionalism’.
  • Improved delivery of IAG. Learners are given more time to think about their learning journey and receive more support to move on.

See Wigan Council's phase-1 CLMH project page